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Poem by Henry Timrod


O lady! if, until this hour,
 I've gazed in those bewildering eyes,
Yet never owned their touching power,
 But when thou couldst not hear my sighs;
It has not been that love has slept
 One single moment in my soul,
Or that on lip or look I kept
 A stern and stoical control;
But that I saw, but that I felt,
 In every tone and glance of thine,
Whate'er they spoke, where'er they dwelt,
 How small, how poor a part was mine;
And that I deeply, dearly knew,
 THAT hidden, hopeless love confessed,
The fatal words would lose me, too,
 Even the weak friendship I possessed.
And so, I masked my secret well;
 The very love within my breast
Became the strange, but potent spell
 By which I forced it into rest.
Yet there were timesI scarce know how
 These eager lips refrained to speak,
Some kindly smile would light thy brow,
 And I grew passionate and weak;
The secret sparkled at my eyes,
And love but half repressed its sighs,
Then had I gazed an instant more,
 Or dwelt one moment on that brow,
I might have changed the smile it wore,
 To what perhaps it weareth now,
And spite of all I feared to meet,
Confessed that passion at thy feet.
To save my heart, to spare thine own,
 There was one remedy alone.
I fled, I shunned thy very touch,
It cost me much, O God! how much!
But if some burning tears were shed,
 Lady! I let them freely flow;
At least, they left unbreathed, unsaid,
 A worse and wilder woe.

But now,NOW that we part indeed,
 And that I may not think as then,
That as I wish, or as I need,
 I may return again,
Now that for months, perhaps for years
I see no limit in my fears
My home shall be some distant spot,
Where thouwhere even thy name is not,
And since I shall not see the frown,
Such wild, mad language must bring down,
Could Ialbeit I may not sue
 In hope to bend thy steadfast will
Could I have breathed this word, adieu,
 And kept my secret still?

Doubtless thou know'st the Hebrew story
 The tale 's with me a favorite one
How Raphael left the Courts of Glory,
 And walked with Judah's honored Son;
And how the twain together dwelt,
 And how they talked upon the road,
How often too they must have knelt
 As equals to the same kind God;
And still the mortal never guessed,
How much and deeply he was blessed,
Till whenthe Angel's mission done
 The spell which drew him earthwards, riven
The lover savedthe maiden won
 He plumed again his wings for Heaven;
O Madeline! as unaware
Thou hast been followed everywhere,
 And girt and guarded by a love,
As warm, as tender in its care,
As pure, ay, powerful in prayer,
 As any saint above!
Like the bright inmate of the skies,
It only looked with friendly eyes,
And still had worn the illusive guise,
 And thus at least been half concealed;
But at this parting, painful hour,
It spreads its wings, unfolds its power,
 And stands, like Raphael, revealed.

More, Lady! I would wish to speak,
But it were vain, and words are weak,
And now that I have bared my breast,
Perchance thou wilt infer the rest.
So, so, farewell!  I need not say
 I look, I ask for no reply,
The cold and scarcely pitying "nay"
 I read in that unmelted eye;
Yet one dear favor, let me pray!
 Days, months, however slow to me,
Must drag at last their length away,
 And I returnif not to thee
At least to breathe the same sweet air
That wooes thy lips and waves thy hair.
Oh, then!these daring lines forgot
Look, speak, as thou hadst read them not.
So, Lady, may I still retain
A right I would not lose again,
For all that gold or guilt can buy,
Or all that Heaven itself deny,
A right such love may justly claim,
Of seeing thee in friendship's name.
Give me but this, and still at whiles,
A portion of thy faintest smiles,
 It were enough to bless;
I may not, dare not ask for more
Than boon so rich, and yet so poor,
 But I should die with less.

Henry Timrod

Henry Timrod's other poems:
  1. Hymn Sung at an Anniversary of the Asylum of Orphans at Charleston
  2. Hymn Sung at the Consecration of Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C.
  3. A Cry to Arms
  4. Too Long, O Spirit of Storm
  5. Lines to R. L.

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